HOBART | Crown Point pastor Alan Phillips called Friday’s 13th annual Outstanding Law Enforcement Officer Awards banquet the “academy awards for law enforcement.”
Phillips, of Hillside Community Church, said it would be unthinkable to not recognize the local heroes who are on the streets protecting residents every day.
Officer of the Year honors, award by the District One Law Enforcement Council and the Northwest Indiana Public Information Officers’ Association, were shared by three local officers.
Indiana State Police Sgt. Terry Gose and Lake County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Steve Trajkovich reconstructed the hit-and-run accident that killed Lake County Correctional Officer Britney Meux and injured three other officers. Gose and Trajkovish were instrumental in the conviction of Jason Cozmanoff, 44, of Lakes of the Four Seasons, who was convicted of 13 counts, including reckless homicide, leaving the scene and criminal recklessness. Cozmanoff was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Gose and Trajkovich were able to prove Cozmanoff was driving his vehicle 78 miles per hour and coming from a local bar as he struck the officers.
Trajkovich said he enjoys his job.
“I like putting them together and trying to figure out what happened,” Trajkovich said. “Usually they involve DUIs or speeding. That is something that a lot of people do. I always felt that when you work these kinds of cases you possibly save lives by trying to stop crashes and slow people down. That has been important to me. Also, victims’ families want to know what happened, and I try to find an answer for them.”
East Chicago Officer Brian Michael Paine also earned the Officer of the Year honor for his investigation with colleagues at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Federal Bureau of Investigation involving the Almighty Imperial Gangsters street gang. Since 2009, the combined investigations have solved 14 homicides that spanned 12 years and involved murders in East Chicago, Hammond and Gary. The investigation has resulted in the indictments of 24 AIG members and 23 convictions by plea or trial.
Lifetime Achievement Awards were bestowed on Portage Major Cliff Burch, with 27 years of service, Lake Station Community Schools Director of School Safety and retired Lowell Assistant Police Chief Scott Tokach, with 25 years of service, and Cmdr. Sharon Bennett, of the Lake County Sheriff’s Department, with 37 years of service.
Lifesaving awards were presented to Whiting Sgts. Milford Hale and Jeffery Allard, Portage Officer Kurt Biggs, Griffith Sgt. Ryan Bottiger and Indiana State Police Master Troopers David Eggers and Tom Mechling.
The ceremony opened with presentation of the flags by the Lake County Sheriff’s Honor Guard and the music of the Pipes and Drums of the Lake County Sheriff’s Department. Hammond Sgt. Sean Garrison sang the National Anthem and Crown Point Patrolman Robert Ballas sang God Bless America.